Good Morning! Good News!
In an online era of shopping and communicating with loved ones via text message, FaceTime, and other electronic means, a Bellefontaine area resident undertook a unique Christmas project during the last month as a way to connect with her family during a pandemic year and to help transport them to a nostalgic time in their past, when holiday browsing took place in a different format.
Mary Jo Altstaetter said while completing some organizing at her home this fall, she came across a number of department store Christmas catalogs that she had collected over the years, spanning from the late 1970s to the mid-2000s. She would pick one up each year during that time or receive one in the mail from JCPenney, Montgomery Ward or Sears.
The thick catalogs feature a plethora of household goods and gifts, from clothing to furniture, kitchen items, electronics and toys. The retired teacher related that upon looking through the catalogs, she noticed the toy sections where her children had circled the items at the top of their wish lists several decades ago.
Those happy memories sparked an idea to mail the catalogs and a letter to her children and to her 20 nieces and nephews, some as far away as in Germany and Canada, since the extended family cannot gather this year for the holidays, and also missed out on their summertime reunion.
“We haven’t been able to all be together since June of 2019, so my nieces and nephews have really been on my heart,” Altstaetter said. “Since Christmas is so different this year, I want them to be able to share in the excitement in this old-fashioned way. Mailing out the catalogs reminds me of how excited my kids were when the catalogs arrived at our house before Christmas.”
Prior to her post office stop to mail all of these packages, Altstaetter said she dropped off some Christmas catalogs for her local daughter and her family.
“They flipped through the pages and were able to reminisce as a family. My daughter found the Barbie kitchen that she had during her growing up years, and my grandson thought it was fun to look up items in the index.
“It’s like a little history lesson, without important dates or historical figures to remember. We were intrigued with seeing a camcorder selling for $895.”
Throughout the toy sections of the catalogs, the area resident noted how many of the toys are “ageless” and still are around today, perhaps in a different format, from Lite-Brite to Cabbage Patch Kids, Spirograph and Strawberry Shortcake.
In the special Christmas packages to her family members, Altstaetter invited them to take a photo of themselves looking through the catalog, and to send to her, so a slideshow can be compiled of all of the cousins, bringing them together across the miles from several states and countries.
After receiving her catalog, her niece, Jill Duling, thanked her aunt for the surprise package via Facebook and said her children were enjoying the bygone pastime.
“The girls are pouring over the pages and their wish lists are growing exponentially,” she said. “Brings back memories of my own and the hours spent scouring and circling and circling and circling.”